Top employers including Shell, E’ON and Microsoft have moved to reassure university leavers they are pressing on with their graduate recruitment schemes next year, despite the decline in vacancies across sectors.
This week BT, one of the country’s biggest employers, announced it would close its graduate recruitment scheme to new entrants next year – a move which sparked criticism among industry experts.
It also emerged that steel giant Corus and smoothie maker Innocent Drinks have also cut their graduate recruitment programmes, just weeks after an Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) survey showed graduate vacancies had fallen by a quarter this year.
But despite the recession, many high-profile employers are still gearing up for their graduate intake in 2010 and beyond.
Oil giant Shell said it was committed to hiring approximately 100 graduates next year, roughly the same amount it took on this year and last. A spokesman told Personnel Today: “We have no plans to review our [graduate] scheme as we think ‘long-term’, as long as 10 years down the line. This recession will be shorter than that.”
And energy firm E’ON guaranteed it would also recruit approximately 30 graduates next year, compared to 33 hires this year. “These numbers are slightly bigger than 2008, when we hired 43 graduates, but our recruitment programme is very much continuing.”
IT firm Microsoft also said it would continue its graduate recruitment “in the foreseeable future”, but declined to specify how many graduates it planned to take on. This year the firm more than halved its intake, recruiting 12 graduates through an ‘accelerated college’ scheme, compared to 26 last year.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said very few employers had abandoned their graduate recruitment programmes altogether.
“Past experience tells us that businesses that close their graduate talent pipeline, even for a short period, find themselves at a commercial disadvantage when the upturn comes as they do not have the talent in place to respond quickly to improved market conditions, and it takes time to fill the vacuum that pulling out of the graduate market has created.”
Fara Reading, head of graduate recruitment at KPMG – one of the big four accounting firms – told Personnel Today her firm had “learned lessons” not to cut graduate intake too drastically, otherwise it would affect future talent development.
This year, KPMG reduced its graduate intake by 25% in response to the economic climate, from 763 to 610 people, but this was far less than previously.
Reading told Personnel Today: “In 2002-04 we dramatically reduced our numbers, then realised we didn’t have enough people. Chartered accountants were like goldust. This time we learned that lesson: if you turn off the tap its difficult to turn it back on again.”